Finished Far Cry 6

Last night I finally finished the main story in Far Cry 6. Never have I felt more confused about my reaction to a game. I would not recommend it, and can’t say I really enjoyed playing it. But I just felt compelled to keep going and I’m not sure why. At one point I decided I was done, uninstalled it and hours later reinstalled it and kept playing.

I think I was just craving that Far Cry mayhem that happens when one of these games is firing on all cylinders. It’s a little bit like GTA or Saints Row games, right? The AI is either broken or crazy and has both vehicles and weapons to create chaos with. Sometimes you don’t even have to initiate any of this: you can just watch. I’ve played through Far Cry 4, Far Cry Primal, Far Cry 5 and Far Cry New Dawn. I really enjoyed the first 3, but New Dawn was just OK. I guess I was hoping for more of that Far Cry magic.

So what went wrong? Broken down into 2 broad categories, both the story/tone and the gameplay had issues for me.

Story & Tone

This game just doesn’t know what it wants to be. The main story is grim & tragic. You are part of a group that is trying to overthrow an oppressive regime. You constantly hear tales of atrocities. Then you get a mission where you have to follow a psychotic rooster around as it takes over enemy bases. It’s like one person wrote a serious script then someone else came along and smeared the ‘wacky Far Cry’ stuff over the top. The villains in Far Cry are always evil but often in a mustache-twirling kind of way that feels very “Saturday matinee adventure story” evil. You hate them but they’re so out-there that they don’t feel real. Far Cry’s regime feels “pulled from today’s headlines” evil and that makes it harder for me to just laugh it off. I don’t mind serious stories in games; but this whiplash between serious story and ridiculous quests just turned me off.

Then there were the characters. I am not sure if these freedom fighters are all that much better than the evil overlord, and that was maybe the point but again, it’s a Far Cry game. I don’t want to think that hard about it, y’know? I didn’t like most of the characters, including the character I played as. Some of this may be age related as most of the characters are young and they act like the stupid kids they are (and that most of us, including me, once were!) Like after a victory your character drinks until they pass out and wake up in a ditch or something. Is that supposed to be ‘cool’ behavior or is the game telling us our character has serious problems? I’m not sure. When they aren’t drinking they’re listening to music that just was not my style, and music plays a pretty big part in one section of the game (a group is using their music to try to draw people to the cause). I found myself skipping a lot of the dialog because I just couldn’t deal with listening to these characters trying desperately to be hip or edgy or something. Characters are always saying things like “I like my dogs like I like my wars: violent and with a lot of humping.” (Not even sure what that means.) Or talking about how they peed a little or have erections or whatever.

There’s also a cock-fighting mini-game. If that isn’t in bad taste, I don’t know what is. I’ll grant you that the actual mini-game has you play as the rooster in a Street Fighter kind of way (which felt better than just watching roosters kill each other), but let’s not glamourize this kind of thing, OK Ubisoft?

Gameplay

OK in the interest of brevity I’ll move on. My biggest issue with the actual gameplay was the progression system. As you do quests and things, you level up. What does leveling up do? As far as I can tell, nothing. It is supposed to unlock better gear from vendors. I didn’t notice this happening but then I’m not sure I ever felt the need to buy gear. When you level up you get a message that enemy troops have gotten stronger. If they did, it was pretty subtle.

There are no skills in Far Cry 6, no stats on your character. So why level? I have no idea.

Gear initially appears to have levels but these are actually tiers of quality, from 1 to 4 stars. The difference between a 1 star rifle and a 4 star rifle is in the number of mods you can apply to it. Mods are crafted and do things like add scopes, suppressors and such, and maybe traits like faster reloads. There’s nothing wrong with this system once you understand how it all works, but the fact that your character levels up just led me to believe that a 4 star weapon would do more damage than a 1 star weapon, and that isn’t necessarily the case.

There are lots of side-activities that I completely ignored. Hunting, fishing, cooking… I cooked food once. Eating gives you a buff, but again the effect was so subtle I didn’t notice it. There’re races to take part in. Never did those so not sure what they do. Lots of side quest stuff, most of which I wound up ignoring because I had no interest in helping out these characters I hated. There’re materials all over the world to harvest, and you can use these to upgrade your bases with new functionality. That was interesting enough but it takes very little time to get everything fully upgraded. I was probably done with that while still in the first third of the game.

In the end, by mid-game I’d chosen about 5 weapons I liked and I just used them until the credits rolled. It’s not that there’s anything really wrong with that, but you know me, I like my progression systems so not getting cool new gear regularly was a little disappointing. Oh, and I almost forgot there is a gear system. I mostly forgot about it while playing the game, too. So maybe this pair of sneakers makes you quieter, while that pair of sneakers makes you faster. I sound like a broken record, but the differences seemed pretty subtle. In theory you can don gear that, for example, buffs your fire resistance if you’re going to be fighting enemies that attack with fire. But virtually every fight pits you against groups of enemies that do soft-target, armored-target, explosive AND fire damage so it only makes sense to generalize your defense, then forget about it for the rest of the game. This led me, in the game with its tragic story, to wear a crocodile head helmet through most of the game (see screenshot at the top of the post). Thankfully you can hide your helm.

OK at this point I’m boring myself so I’ll end this. I wrote an earlier post if you want to read even more of my ranting about this game. At that point I hadn’t yet figured out that the leveling system was pointless.

I guess I’m glad I finished it, but I won’t be buying the next Far Cry game at launch. I’ll wait for reviews and/or a sale. To me Far Cry peaked at Far Cry 5. New Dawn was kind of odd and now Far Cry 6 has drifted further from the old formula. We’ll see if they turn things around for the next game.

June 2022

Well I hope you are well-hydrated (at least if you live near me!) because here comes the hellscape known as July & August. The kind of weather where you open the front door and step into a wall of heat and humidity that drapes over you like a (hot) lead blanket and makes you instantly and consistently miserable.

The only sane solution is to stay indoors in the A/C and play games, watch TV and read! I wish I could convince our Lola that this was the case, but dogs will be dogs. (In truth it gets so hot that even SHE doesn’t want to be outdoors any more than absolutely necessary.)

Anyway, on to the recap!

Games

I played a little more of I Am Setsuna, which I’d started in May. In the end I bounced off it. It seemed like a nice enough little game but the lack of any kind of map killed it for me. If I had been focused on just playing Setsuna this probably wouldn’t have been as much of an issue, but dipping into it once a week meant I could never remember where anything was so I’d spend too much time just wandering back and forth across the “overland” looking for the town/instance/dungeon I was supposed to go to next. Compounding that frustration was the very slow rate of movement in the overland. There seemed to be no reason for this; there weren’t random encounters or anything. At least not in the part of the game I played. In the end I decided there were better titles vying for my attention. Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it.

I finished Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising this month. I have a whole post about that.

Akiba Strip: Undead & Undressed was another old game I had on the PS5’s hard drive, moved over from the PS4. I can’t recall if this was a PS+ freebie or just a super sale I was curious about, but it came out in 2013 and it was a port from a PS Vita or PS Portable title. It’s a game about being a vampire (sorta) fighting other vampires (sorta) in Akihabara. Vampires are tough though so you can’t hurt them in the traditional sense. Instead you have to tear their clothes off, at which point the sunlight will make them go poof.

This might have been intended as a fan-service game but the quality of the graphics means it all comes off more silly than salacious. Your enemies never lose their undergarments and they dissolve pretty quickly after you strip them. I’d say fully looting bodies in Skyrim is overall more NSFW than this game gets. I liked the characters and their banter, maybe because I hadn’t been watching any anime lately. They’re all delightfully otaku, mostly obsessed with manga and rare action figures, but somehow also fighting vampires (sorta). Side missions are sometimes goofy tasks like helping a shy guy get the courage to ask a girl out. Weapons and armor are all common items. The best weapon I’d found before I quit playing was an old laptop. So yeah I’d hit someone in the shirt with a laptop until the shirt got weak, then I’d tear it off. It’s all quite ridiculous.

Unfortunately each ‘area’ you enter is tiny and there are constant loading screens as you traverse the city. They’re pretty quick but still…so many loading screens. More seriously, I found that actual combat to be not very good, and the whole time I was running around a Japanese city brawling I was thinking I could be doing the same thing in a Yakuza game and probably having a better time. The novelty of the whole aesthetic wore off after a couple hours and I decided I’d had enough of that one for now.

Watching the Obi Wan Kenobi series put me in a Star Wars mood which led to me trying Jedi Fallen Order for a 3rd or 4th time. I wrote a post about how I finally found myself enjoying it and I finished it a few days after writing that post. In the end I got pretty hooked on the story and the characters and now I’m looking forward to the sequel. With the story finished, though, I felt no need to stick around and chase Achievements or anything. Still, it was a very enjoyable time.

Ni No Kuni 2 is another PS4 game that’s been on the hard drive for a long time. This one I remember buying for like $7 during a Black Friday sale or something. I never finished the first Ni No Kuni; I just got bored with it. Not sure if it was the fairy tale setting, or the lack of challenge. My memory of it is tons of combat that became really routine and dull. Ni No Kuni 2 swaps the turn-based combat for an action-RPG kind of system. It still isn’t very challenging but at least every battle doesn’t feel exactly the same. We’ll see how far I get; I’m currently at 12 hours or so and finding myself booting it up less and less frequently.

Far Cry 6 wound up warranting its own post. I haven’t booted that one up since that post. Time to either get back to it or uninstall it.

Marvel’s Avengers got a new hero, Jane Foster Thor, so I reinstalled it. I own this on PS5 and have it on Xbox via Game Pass. For some reason I installed it on both consoles. Weird thing is, I like it a lot better on Xbox. I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it is just because I am earlier in the game on Xbox (I’m just now doing the Kate Bishop operation.) Everything just feels smoother on Xbox for me. Maybe it’s the haptics on the PS5 controller? I should try turning those off.

My biggest issue with Marvel’s Avengers is that it is so damned big. It’s weird that the era of SSDs has once again made hard drive space precious, but that’s the world we live in. I wound up uninstalling it from the PS5, but so far it’s still lingering on the Xbox, but not sure for how long.

I feel like overall I’d enjoy this game more if I could just play with my character and maybe 1 AI teammate and have the difficulty scale accordingly. Having 3 AIs running all over the place gets so chaotic I get frustrated. Nothing like triggering an ability just as a team-mate knocks your intended target across the map. Really though, this game was made for multiplayer, so not really made for me.

TV

I finished up The Last Kingdom. I have that snooty “the books were better” feeling towards the series. Actually I felt like Seasons 1-3 were pretty authentic. Each season drifted farther from the books but they still felt right. Seasons 4-5 just felt like a different series with a character that happened to have the same first name. It no longer seemed like Uhtred’s story. It was enjoyable, just different. It didn’t feel like Danes vs Saxons any more, with a lot of archers with Legolas-like skills, and crossbows of all things. Plus England started to feel like it was maybe 2 miles across, the way characters bounced from town to town at will. The books are historical fiction. S1-3 of the series felt kind of like historical fiction. S4-5 just seemed like a fantasy series with no magic.

I expected Stranger Things to be not-great. I was wrong. But it ended on a cliffhanger. The good news is, the second part of the season starts July 1st. Hopefully the quality stays high.

Strange New Worlds continues to be amazing. Simply amazing. Best Star Trek show of the modern generation of shows.

Ms Marvel is a show that has really surprised me. I knew I’d watch it because, y’know, Marvel super hero stuff. But I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do. I just adore this show and want to give it a big warm hug.

Obi-Wan Kenobi was OK, but for me just OK. I think knowing that so many of these characters were going to be around for Episode 4 drained a lot of the tension out of the show. I mostly am curious as to why the meat on that gigantic carcass doesn’t spoil in the twin suns of Tatooine.

DOTA: Dragon’s Blood (Netflix). Here’s a show with a great cast and…nothing much else to recommend it. I watched 2 seasons and still don’t really understand what the heck is happening. This one was a waste of time.

Deep Space 9 is still our lunchtime viewing. We’re in the Dominion war now; second to the last season. I am missing the interplay betweeen Odo and Quark in this season, but we see a lot of Garrack who I enjoy as a character. Weird thing about this series is it’s all the non-Star Fleet characters I like best. The main crew… meh, I can take them or leave them. Except for Nog, who gets really likeable once he (spoilers!) joins Star Fleet.

The Toys That Made Us is a documentary on Netflix examining the history of toys like Barbie, GI Joe and Star Wars. It’s pretty fun if you pick the episodes about brands you can relate to, though after a while the stories start to feel very similar. Still, I enjoyed the episodes I watched.

That’s a lot of TV and that’s not even everything. I’ve been gaming less and less as I cast about for something that really hooks me, and as a result of that my TV viewing is going up and up.

Books

I finally finished Abaddon’s Gate, the 3rd (?) in The Expanse series. I’m now kind of mad at the authors because of some comments they made on Twitter, though. I don’t follow them; I’ve learned not to follow people who create the art I enjoy. Ignorance is bliss; I don’t need to learn they are asshats. Anyway I don’t follow them but someone I know retweeted a comment that got my nose out of joint so I’ve slowed down my reading of these books. It wasn’t even anything terrible, just an off-hand comment about how us old people are all evil. I’m pretty sure I’m not evil.

Instead I’m back to reading ancient Marvel Comics on Marvel Unlimited. The last time I talked about reading Marvel Comics someone left a comment showing me this: https://cmro.travis-starnes.com/reading-order.php and I’m using it now. The site has been reworked so when you click on Read Online on the details page, it’ll open that comic in the Marvel Unlimited app. At least, that’s how it works on the iPad I use for reading Marvel Unlimited. That makes things so much easier and I’ve been getting such a kick out of these old comics from back when times were simpler and them Commies needed to be stopped at any cost!

And that’s the endless recap. I’ve really been in a gaming funk lately. I keep starting games and immediately losing interest. I need something to just bowl me over and for me to obsess over. Or, y’know, to get an actual life and do something besides sit on the couch every night!!!

Mr Malcolm Playstation Ad

I shared this on Twitter already but wanted to share it here as well.

As an old guy I often feel kind of ‘left out’ when it comes to gaming. People my age (let’s just say “over 60”) appear in ads and marketing campaigns once in a while, but almost always in the company of a child or grandchild. Advertising execs seem to be telling us “It is ok for you to play a game as long as you have a child with you.” Also the old people always look vaguely confused in those ads.

Now Playstation has a new ad (it’s actually for the new Playstation Plus tiers) featuring “Mr. Malcolm” who appears to be my age or slightly older. He’s a well-dressed gentleman who seems to live alone. The only kids in the ad are some children on the street that he walks past.

Mr. Malcolm is a gamer, and based on his trophy collection he plays a wide variety of games. Finally a bit of marketing that acknowledges that we older gamers exist. I love it!

Revisiting Far Cry 6

Far Cry 6 was taking up a big chunk of my PS5’s hard drive space so I decided I’d better play it or uninstall it. I’d purchased it back at launch but for reasons I could not remember, drifted away from it pretty quickly. Time to refresh my memory.

I booted it up, felt really lost and came very close to uninstalling, but then I decided to start a new game so I could re-engage with the story and the game’s systems and that was enough to get me interested, at least for a little while. I’m now further than I got when I first played it back at launch.

One of the challenges for me was getting used to playing a Far Cry where you use some restraint. There is no real reason to fight the random enemies you see wandering around the world and if you do, you’ll find they respawn like crazy. When defeated all they drop is ammo and often you use more killing them than you get back. There is no “xp” from killing random enemies and they don’t drop weapons or anything. This nudges you toward behaving like a real guerilla. If you holster your weapon you can pass these random soldiers without any issue and generally you should. Just blend in with the local populace until you get to your target.

In this video clip my goal was to take over a checkpoint. I’ve included a chunk of my trip to the destination, and if you watch the mini-map anything red indicates an enemy. You see I drive past a lot of them since they weren’t relevant to the task at hand. Heck I almost crash into a truck full of enemies! In other Far Cry games I probably would’ve shot up everything I saw. Doing that in Far Cry 6 means that you’ll probably wind up getting to your destination out of ammo and you won’t really have gained anything from all that combat.

Once my brain accepted this playstyle, I started having a lot more fun with the gameplay itself. In terms of the story though, so far not a fan and I detest like 90% of the characters I’ve met, including the character you play as. I get that they’re going for that edgy & maybe rural vibe, but it just isn’t resonating well with me. I have known people (some of my redneck cousins) who use “shit” as a generic noun, but I don’t need it in my games. Example: An NPC tells you “I need you to go to this crash site and get some shit that was in the chopper. Bring it back and I’ll use it to make some shit to help you blow up shit.” Your character responds: “Oh shit yeah, I’ll do that shit.” [I am exaggerating a TINY bit here.]

Then there’s that thing that happens in so many games where you are playing this super-powerful character who leaves a huge body count in their wake, then they encounter an NPC who starts manipulating and bossing them around as if they have no power. Instead of just killing this (generally evil) NPC, the protagonist becomes their errand person and travels all over the place doing vile tasks for them while the NPC cackles and twirls their mustache. I actually tried to kill the NPC who did this to me in Far Cry 6 but sadly, they wouldn’t die.

I’m getting myself all worked up into a hate-post on Far Cry 6 so I’ll stop. For now. I enjoy the game a lot more when I’m in a mission then when experiencing the story. Let’s just leave it at that.

One pro-tip if you play. Once you get to where you can start building things at camps, build the Hideout Network and upgrade it as much as possible, then buy all the locations from it. This will unlock a bunch of Fast Travel points. Traveling back and forth across the map can get pretty tedious and having a Fast Travel point to get you in the general area of your goal is SUPER helpful.

Writing this post has almost convinced me to stop playing, but there is SOMETHING there that is still calling to me. I should figure out what it is and write a post about that. Maybe it is the gorgeous land and seas-scapes.

A picturesque seascape

Jedi: Fallen Order Finally Sticks?

We’ve been watching the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series, which has put me in a Star Wars mood. That led me to firing up Jedi: Fallen Order, a game I have a not-great history with.

I played it at launch on PC thanks to being an EA Pro (?) subscriber at the time. I got a ways into it but I was more or less hate-playing it. When the EA subscription expired I was fine leaving Fallen Order behind. Eventually it made it to Game Pass on the Xbox and I tried it again and quickly bounced off it.

So what bothered me so much about this game?

1) The actor. There’s something about Cameron Monaghan I just don’t like; I think he must remind me of someone from my past that I had a bad relationship with. I didn’t like him in Gotham (where he played the proto-Joker) and I didn’t like him here. Not the game’s fault and for that matter, not his fault. It’s just a thing.

2) The map. Oh that map. It gave me a headache and I constantly felt lost. (See image at the top of this post.)

3) The rewards: Nothing depressed me more than solving a puzzle to get to a chest and having it give me a new super ugly and cosmetic-only poncho or something. And I never saw the point of customizing my light saber either, aside maybe for the color. It’s not like I ever look at it.

4) The Souls-like aspects.

But still I gave it another try because what other Star Wars game did I have handy and… I’m liking it this time! Quite a bit actually. So what has changed?

1) I guess I’m over my dislike of Cameron Monaghan. Maybe I’m just used to him? I still don’t have warm fuzzy feelings towards him, but looking at him no longer makes me angry like it used to.

2) I finally noticed you can toggle between layers of the map. This makes it marginally better tho it still frustrates me.

3) The rewards still suck but I guess now that I know I’m going to be disappointed it doesn’t bother me as much.

4) This is the big one: Bloodborne happened. A while back I played through a good chunk of Bloodborne (which, for those who do not know, is a for-real Souls game from From Software), basically following a video walkthrough to help manage my frustration levels. Doing this kind of made the whole Souls-like environment feel a little less foreign and a little more rewarding. This is by far the biggest reason I’m enjoying Fallen Order this time around. I now expect to have to backtrack and revisit areas and I get excited when I find a good shortcut or something. Also compared to other Souls-likes Fallen Order’s difficulty is much lower. I’m also exploring more (because now I know that’s what you do in a Souls-like) which has led to me having more tools earlier, which also helps with the difficulty curve.

I spent the bulk of last weekend playing Jedi Fallen Order and thinking about it when I wasn’t playing it. This was super surprising to me.

I guess it just goes to show you that you should never write-off a game forever. What you like today and what you like in a year or two can be completely different things.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising Finished

Funny story. Since I’ve been doing my monthly recap posts, I’ve been taking more notes about what I’ve been playing. Basically as soon as I publish one recap I start a post for the next and add notes as the month progresses.

The other day I wrote this:

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising was another bounce. This was an ideal game to have in rotation when I was playing things like The Division, Final Fantasy XIV and No Man’s Sky because all of those games kind of demand a chunk of time, mostly due to having to connect to some kind of server/service before you start playing. I could pop into Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising when I had 15 minutes free and spend 14.5 of those minutes actually playing (particularly with Xbox Quick Resume). When I transitioned mostly to Horizon Zero Dawn/Forbidden West, good old single player games with a proper PAUSE feature, EC:R kind of lost its appeal. It was fun for a while, it was on Game Pass so didn’t cost me anything, but it really did get rather repetitive over time. I’m also generally not a fan of 2D platform-style games, which this is. They never hold my interest for very long.

Then I fired up the Xbox to delete the game from my drive but for some reason booted it up one last time and…about a dozen /played hours later I’ve completed the game and even done some Achievement Hunting. I’m not even sure why I became re-hooked but I think I found myself kind of liking the characters. The story itself was fine but not exactly a thrill-ride. The quests tended towards being very pedestrian. The game world was pretty limited.

So quickie review. You play CJ, a scavenger who has come to a struggling town to find treasure in the dungeons nearby. Before you can explore you need a license which you can’t afford, but if you fill out a ‘stamp book’ you can get one for free. You collect stamps from villagers for doing chores for them. A lot of the chores (quests) are along the lines of “Go find my kid” or “Ask X about Y” and you do these by constantly running around the town talking to people.

Other quests come from merchants and tend towards “gather materials from the dungeons”. Once you do that, the merchant’s shop will upgrade and they start selling better stuff. Going into dungeons (there’s a forest, a quarry, and then a ‘barrows’ which has 3 biomes, cold, fire and electric) is a mix of smacking rocks and trees for stone and wood, and smacking monsters for xp and monster parts.

Combat is action-based and everything is 2D. You’ve got a jump button, an attack button and a special button. Eventually you’ll add two more members to your party and each is assigned an attack button. So the face buttons on your controller are Jump and character 1, 2, & 3. I never did learn the muscle memory for this: I’d tap Y (on the Xbox controller) to switch to Garoo, my beefy melee dude (he’s a kangaroo-man) then, intending to attack, I’d instinctively hit X which would switch back to CJ, my main character. What I was supposed to do is hit Y to switch to Garoo, then Y again for him to attack. Asha the mage was B, which my brain knows as “CANCEL” so I didn’t use her too much. CJ gets X which is a standard ‘attack’ button on the controller so I leaned heavily on her. Well, she IS the main character after all.

I realize I explained that poorly. Here’s a random couple minutes of gameplay that might help. Might not.

There’s a little more to it but basically gameplay is simple and the game is not particularly difficult until the very last battle, and that difficulty was overcome by over-leveling a bit. I think it was actually the lack of challenge that kept me around. As CJ & Crew re-entered the same dungeons over and over again I started to memorize them and would just fly through them smacking things as soon as they appeared. It became this kind of ‘turn off the brain and just blast through baddies and get tons of loot’ experience that I maybe needed.

The game is on Game Pass or you can buy it for $15 on most (all?) platforms. I’m not sure if I’d recommend it or not. I think if you’re in the mood to play something pretty light-hearted and easy (but also quite repetitive) then maybe check it out. I’ve put about 25 hours into it at this point but I’m well past the closing credits and have just been grinding to knock out Achievements. How Long to Beat has the average play time at 17 hours. It was kind of nice to have a game that didn’t take me 6 weeks to play through.

I’ve still got 10 Achievements to go but one of them is to get to level 50 and I’m level 44 but the XP is coming in pretty slow. Then there are some for beating bosses on Hard mode (unlocked after you complete the story) and I dunno about doing those. I got the achievement for earning all 160 of the stamps (in other words, doing 160 side quests) but now they’ve all come back again, I guess this is a way to help you continue to earn XP, but it’s all kind of discouraging. It was bad enough getting through them all once!

Yeah, I just talked myself out of continuing the Achievement Hunt. I don’t want to totally sour myself on the game. Let’s set it aside while I still have pleasant thoughts about it. 🙂

May 2022

Goodbye May, hello June, only 4 more months of hellish summer heat to get through.

I was saying just the other day, one of the things I hate about living in the south is that summer is no longer a season to be anticipated. We basically live for Halloween-New Years and the other 9 months of the year is about waiting around for the good quarter to return. Compare that to when I lived places where summer meant swimming and sailing and biking and stuff.

Anyway, been a crummy couple of weeks out in the real world anyway. Who needs it? I’ll stay inside in the A/C playing games. Speaking of which…

Games

For the first week of May I was still subbed to Final Fantasy XIV. I was having fun while at the same time missing playing other things, so when the subscription came up for renewal I let it expire. That really opened the flood gates because I’ve dipped into so many games this month.

A lot of my time was spent revisiting games I’ve played and enjoyed in the past. I started a new Division 2 agent, started a new save in No Man’s Sky, spent some time in Elder Scrolls Online & got back to my Horizon Zero Dawn replay. Good times across the board in these games; there’s something so relaxing and fun about revisiting a game you enjoy.

Newer (to me that is) titles played include Final Fantasy XIII-2, though honestly I didn’t get too far into that one. I wasn’t really feeling the new characters and…I dunno, it took a long time for FF XIII to get good (though in my opinion it never got great) and FF XIII-2 felt like it was resetting the stage and was going to be dull for another long swathe before improving. I decided life is too short.

(It’s worth noting that I’m at a point where I have SO many games in my backlog and so many new games coming out that I want to play, that I’m getting more & more picky about the games I stick with. I almost look for an excuse to cross a game off the list, at least for now. It isn’t like I’m throwing these games away, I can always come back and give them another chance if I ever run out of things to play.)

I also put a good chunk of time into Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. This game really toyed with me. I enjoyed the fiction of a bunch of Borderlands characters playing a not-quite-D&D campaign, but the gameplay never really hooked me. What made this tricky is that it constantly felt like it could and maybe soon would (hook me). At one point I rage quit and uninstalled the game when stuck on a boss, but eventually re-downloaded it to try again (I hate letting the game win). I did beat that boss & started moving forward again but it just wasn’t quite fun. I felt like the enemies were very bullet-spongy, and a common issue I have with Borderlands games is the excess of loot. There’s so much loot that you either start ignoring it or spend all your time sorting through it, neither of which feels satisfying to me. Most fights were more about resource (ammo) management than actually hitting the enemy, and eventually I decided it just wasn’t for me.

Floating somewhere between old game and new-to-me game is I Am Setsuna, which it seems I played in 2016 based on when I earned a few trophies for it. This title has been sitting on the Playstation hard drive for 6 years (apparently) so I figured it was time to play it or delete it.

In terms of actual new games, I spent a decent amount of time in Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, which popped up on Game Pass with a lot of hype accompanying it. It’s an enjoyable game in small doses and really lends itself to those “I have 20 minutes before dinner, what can I play?” sessions. Some reviews have faulted it for being repetitive or boring and I totally agree: it isn’t strong enough to be a ‘primary game’. But just as something to pop into now and again, it’s fun. Really fast and easy to jump in, mechanics are simple enough that you don’t have to go through that “OK now do I remember how to play this?” phase after a long break.

Currently I’m into Horizon Forbidden West but with just 10 hours into it so far I don’t have much to say beyond SQUEEEE! Loving it so far.

TV

Let’s see, for ‘family viewing’ we finished Picard, Upload, Halo, Moon Knight & Raised by Wolves. Of those I think I liked Upload the best, with Halo a close second. Picard was losing me then won me back in the last 2 episodes. Moon Knight and Wolves were both weird.

We’re enjoying the hell out of Strange New Worlds though we’ve set it aside to binge through Stranger Things S4.

And at lunch we’re still working through our rewatch of Deep Space 9. Just started season 5 of, I think, 7.

My solo late night viewing has been All Creatures Great & Small (the newest version, and it is a great ‘feel good’ series) and The Last Kingdom. I’m happy to report that the show version of The Last Kingdom is different enough from the books that it is enjoyable as its own thing.

Books

None! I haven’t been reading much, partly because it is so hot. I tend to do a lot of reading while out and about with Lola. While she wallows in the grass, I read. But it’s been too hot to spend much time outside so…not much reading time.

And that’s May. June should be an exciting time for gamers with lots of announcements (tho not a lot of new releases) so I’m looking forward to that. And to surviving the heat…

Horizon Zero Dawn Replay: Now I’m REALLY Done (I Think)

Quick addendum to my last post. I did end up playing through The Frozen Wilds (which I was calling the Frozen North in my last post). It had a better story than I remember, dealing with a project that actually pre-dates Zero Dawn. I know I played through it back in 2017 but I had completely forgotten about it.

I also then discovered a bunch of quests I had never played, and these introduced me to some of the characters that, in Horizon Forbidden West, spurred me to do a replay of HZD: I didn’t remember these characters because I’d never met them because I’d left quests unfinished!

So that was good. At the same time, I feel like the actual gameplay of Frozen Wilds isn’t as good as the main game. The machines are tougher but in a way that, for me at least, feels tedious and annoying. They have a lot of hit points and some really cheap attacks. For example one of the apex machines can cause the ground under your feet to erupt with fire and will do so even while facing away from you or even being on the other side of a hill and out of line of sight.

Still, I’m glad I got through it. At this point I have 100% of the trophies for the main game, 100% of the quest trophies for Frozen Wilds. I’m missing a handful of other trophies though. One is a “Kill X beasties” which would mean finding that kind of beastie & killing them. I could this fairly easily I suppose. Another is repairing 5 different types of machine. Again I guess I could do this but I’ve never repaired a machine. And last it to kill X machines by launching off a mount: that’s a skill I never unlocked even though I am at level cap (60). I did not 100% the main story this time around and I guess I missed some Cauldrons that give skill points. So I would have to go find & solve the Cauldrons, unlock the skill, then tame a mount, then kill enemies by launching off it. As I’ve already put 73 hours into this replay I don’t think it’s worth it for a Trophy.

Additionally there are 2 New Game+ Trophies, one just for completing a New Game+ game, and the other is for completing New Game+ on Ultra Difficulty. That is definitely NOT my jam so I’m never going to get 100% trophies in this game, which makes skipping the handful of others a lot easier.

So I think I’m FINALLY ready to re-start Horizon Forbidden West. I cannot wait to see what happens now that I am fresh from the amazing lore of Horizon Zero Dawn.

Horizon Zero Dawn Replay Finished?

When Horizon Zero Dawn released in the winter of 2017 I was obsessed with it. I played through it, then got the Platinum Trophy, then told everyone who would listen that they had to play it. It is one of my all-time favorite gaming experiences and one of my favorite sci-fi stories across any medium.

When the Frozen North expansion came out I played through it, too, but I didn’t enjoy it as much. In fact as of right now I can’t remember what it was about, but I remember a lot of fights against powerful machines. Challenging but not as fun as what I’d experienced in the main game.

After Frozen North, I left Horizon Zero Dawn behind.

Five years later Horizon Forbidden West released and I jumped straight into it, but something was missing. Not something in the game itself, but something in my experience. It was that after 5 years I’d forgotten so much about the story from the first game that I didn’t feel like I was getting all I could out of Forbidden West.

I decided to set Forbidden West aside and replay Zero Dawn. Three months later, I’ve finished that replay. And it was wonderful.

Not that it took 3 months to play it. I kind of dipped in and out of it for like 11 weeks, then hit the part where the story really ramps up and finished the second half in about a week. I had worried that, knowing all the twists to the story, I wouldn’t find it as good the 2nd time around but in fact it was like re-watching The Expanse or any other great sci-fi show. Knowing what you know, the 2nd time through, you pick up on all kinds of foreshadowing and details that you missed the first time.

The only catch with Horizon Zero Dawn is that a LOT of the story is told via audio journals, text files you recover, and holographic projections and many of these can be missed or skipped. I am a fairly fastidious gamer and tend to move slowly and explore everywhere and read everything but there are still some missing entries in the log files. For gamers who are more about getting back to the action as quickly as possible I wonder how much of the richness of the story comes through. (There were times I spent over an hour exploring and reading and never fighting.)

So now I have to decide, do I want to replay The Frozen North or should I just restart Forbidden West. I think I’ll putter around in Zero Dawn until the long weekend starts, then switch to Forbidden West. There’s nothing like a 3-day weekend to kickstart playing through a new and much anticipated game.

Finished with Final Fantasy Fourteen For Now

I’m never one to pass on an alliterative title.

So as it says above, my 1 month Final Fantasy XIV sub ends in a couple of days and for once I timed things right. For the past week or so I’ve been logging in less and less so it’s the right time for a break.

I do plan on returning, probably when they release the next chunk of solo-able Main Story Quest dungeons. Not that I’ve gone through all the ones that are available now: the last one I did was Brayflox’s Longstop which crops up in the long (and to me, annoying) quest chain that happens before you fight Titan. Do you remember it? You’re sent all over hell & back getting food for a feast?

Generally I think I like the early levels of A Realm Reborn best, before you are expected to teleport all over the world to pick up a package or talk to an NPC. I am not really a fan of fast travel because, for me, it robs the world of a sense of scale and of being real. Of course I COULD just travel between these places on my Chocobo, and I might actually do that if I wasn’t paying a subscription fee which means there’s always a little clock ticking in the back of my brain. I don’t want to waste that much time when my time is limited to what I’m willing to pay for.

Anyway back to this quest chain. I had forgotten that when I was sent to get the wine it became a whole sub-branch of fetch quests and I just couldn’t face it, so I stopped logging in. I will try to power through these before my time runs out so they’re not the first thing I encounter when I inevitably come back.

And coming back should be easy because I’m playing a Paladin and at level 40 (I have managed to get way over-leveled without trying – Brayflox is a level 32 instance) I have only 5 skills that I regularly use. I have more than 5 slotted of course, but I rarely have need to use them. Turns out playing a Tank solo is kind of dull, at least so far. I’ve considered starting to level a healer or dps job but again…the clock is ticking and by the time it occurred to me to start a new job I only had a week of time left. Tt seemed wasteful to start over again. Maybe when I return.

Hmm, so far this post has sounded like a bunch of griping, but in general I’ve been having fun in FF XIV. I’m just grumpy because of this one quest chain.

Concerning Solo Dungeons

Doing the dungeons solo has been really enjoyable for a few reasons.

First, there’s obviously no social anxiety issues when your party buddies are all npcs.

Second, I get to really explore all the nooks and crannies and I have a better sense of the layout of these dungeons now. Dungeons that in the past were just a blur of rooms dashed through while trying to keep up with an experienced party hell-bent on finishing as quickly as possible now feel like fully-formed places. Haukke Manor is actually creepy when you have a minute to look around!

Third, you get to keep all the loot! I know that comes off as very selfish but it’s nice to go into a dungeon and come out the other side having replaced several pieces of gear with upgrades. Bonus: You have time to stop and put that gear on while you’re still in the dungeon!

Outside of the dungeons, the game has been pleasant enough though experience flows in so quickly that, as mentioned, I’m over-level everywhere. There’s not much challenge in overland content right now, which is another reason I thought I might start a new job. Easy-mode gets boring. If I wasn’t focused on the Main Story quest I’d mix things up by re-running Dungeons or grinding Fates (both of which level sync you) but again…the clock is ticking.

I still love the visuals and the vibe of the game. It would be great to be able to own a house and just kind of widen the experience beyond just questing all the time.

Sometimes when I’m done playing I stay logged in and turn on the “Idle Camera” and leave it running on the TV just to watch what folks are doing, see what they are wearing. That kind of thing.

So better to leave while I’m still basically feeling good about the game. I’ve got other things I want to play and FFXIV will be there waiting for me for the foreseeable future.

Weirdly, the thing I’ve been playing most when I’ve not been in FFXIV is Elder Scrolls Online. Out of the frying pan, into the fire. But that’s a different post.